Scientists Discover Link Between Talcum Powder Use and Ovarian Cancer
In January 2017, Manhattan scientists discovered a link between women’s hygienic use of talcum powder and increased risks for developing ovarian cancer. The association revealed a significant tie between women’s use of talcum powder and ovarian cancer.
The associate director for cancer prevention at The Tisch Cancer Institute of Mount Sinai Hospital, Dr. Paolo Boffetta, reported the team’s findings in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention, according to Newsday. The research utilized information from a meta-analysis that reassessed 24 previously published statistical analyses and a number of prospective studies involving 302,000 patients diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
If you, or someone you know, were injured do due the hygienic use of talcum powder, please contact one of the personal injury attorneys at Parker Waichman LLP at 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).
Among cases reviewed in his analysis, talc use may have dated as far back as decades, Dr. Boffetta said. “Overall, it is about a 20 percent higher risk for women who say they used talc, compared to women who say they did not use it,” Dr. Boffetta said.
“Anything that can get in the peritoneal cavity can increase the risk,” said Dr. Eva Chalas, chief of gynecologic oncology and vice-chair of obstetrics and gynecology at Winthrop-University Hospital. “We discourage patients from using anything that increases irritation or inflammation.”
Parker Waichman LLP has filed numerous lawsuits on behalf of women who alleged that Johnson & Johnson talcum powder products led to serious and life changing adverse health reactions such as ovarian cancer. The actions were filed in the State of Missouri 22nd Circuit Court, City of St. Louis, Cause Number 1622-CC01357.
What is Talc?
Talc is a mineral comprised mostly of magnesium, silicon, and oxygen. Talcum powder is frequently added to cosmetic and personal products due to its ability to absorb excess moisture. Talc is also used as a friction reducer. When talc is used as a baby powder, the product keeps skin dry and prevents diaper rash and is also used in pills and chewing gum.
Talcum powder ovarian cancer lawsuits are filed on behalf of women who used talc-based products in their genital or perineal region, on sanitary napkins, and in their underwear for feminine hygiene purposes. Many ovarian cancer lawsuit plaintiffs allege that plaintiffs used talcum powder for decades prior to their cancer diagnoses, though some say they had used talcum powder for shorter periods.
Talc residues are often found near asbestos deposits. According to the American Cancer Society, talc contains asbestos in its natural form. Asbestos is a carcinogen—a substance known to cause cancer. Federal regulations have required talcum powder products to be asbestos-free since the 1970s. Great care must be taken to avoid contaminating talc with asbestos when mined.
Ovarian Cancer Statistics
Each year, 22,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer and 14,000 women die of the disease annually, according to statistics from the American Cancer Society. Ovarian cancer is the deadliest cancer of the female reproductive system, is extremely aggressive, and is associated with a low survival rate.
Studies dating back to 1971 suggest that talcum powder used as a feminine hygiene product may lead to the development of ovarian cancer. Scientists believe that when talc is applied to the genital area, small talc particles may migrate into the vagina and eventually to the ovaries. Talc particles cause inflammation, which is thought to contribute to tumor formation.
Plaintiffs want to ensure that the lawsuits brought against Johnson & Johnson will continue even after their deaths. This, given that nearly 60 percent of women who are diagnosed with ovarian cancer are diagnosed at stage three when the five-year survival rate may be as low as 34 percent.
Johnson & Johnson Now Facing Thousands of Lawsuits Over its Powder Products
Plaintiffs in talc-related cases allege that J&J misrepresented and hid information about the dangers of talcum powder use in the genital area. J&J was one of the creators of the “Talc Interested Party Task Force” (TIPTF), formed to defend talc use and prevent regulation via self-funded and self-disseminated research reports. Plaintiffs say the group released bogus information about talc safety, using political and economic persuasion on regulatory bodies.
As of February 2017, healthcare giant, Johnson & Johnson, is facing over 2,000 talcum powder lawsuits pending in courts nationwide. Lawsuits were all filed on behalf of women who were diagnosed with ovarian cancer after their use of Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder or Shower-to-Shower products over a long period of time and for feminine hygiene use.
Plaintiffs also allege that, since the 1970s, mounting studies have shown an association between genital talc use and an increased risk for developing ovarian cancer and that Johnson & Johnson has long been aware of this research but put profits before consumer safety by concealing this information and not warning the public.
One of the largest talcum powder litigations in the United States is underway in Missouri’s 22nd Circuit Court for St. Louis.
Three trials were convened in 2016 there and all three juries delivered verdicts in favor of plaintiffs, ordering Johnson & Johnson to pay compensatory and punitive damage awards that totaled $55 million, $72 million, and $70 million, respectively. Jury selection for the litigation’s fourth trial is scheduled.
Another 100 additional cases have been filed against Johnson & Johnson and centralized in a federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) underway in the U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey: In Re: Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder Products Marketing, Sales Practices and Products Liability Litigation—MDL No.2738. An additional 224 cases are also pending in a multicounty litigation organized in New Jersey’s Atlantic County Superior Court: In Re: Talc-Based Powder Products—Case No. 300. Also, 900 more plaintiffs have filed lawsuits in California state court.
In response to the thousands of lawsuits, Johnson & Johnson filed a bid to delay the trials in the Missouri Court of appeals over allegations that the lawsuits were filed out of jurisdiction. In January 2016, the Missouri Court of Appeals tossed the motion, permitting the lawsuits to proceed in the jurisdiction in which they were filed. The court indicated that, where the plaintiffs reside is unimportant and is allowing the next trial involving 60 plaintiffs. That trial was scheduled for February 6, 2017. Five trials are scheduled after that.
In May 2017, Missouri jury ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay more than $110 million to a Virginia woman for allegedly failing to disclose the cancer risk from its baby powder and another product, according to USA Today.
Talcum Powder Plaintiff Verdicts
More than 4,800 talcum powder lawsuits have been brought against Johnson & Johnson for failing to warn women of the risk of developing ovarian cancer from using its popular baby powders in their pelvic areas. Five of these cases have led to massive monetary awards of $417 million, $110 million, $72 million, $70 million, and $55 million. In every case, Johnson & Johnson have vowed to appeal the decisions.
According to JD Journal, prior to the August 2017 award announcement, Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay over $300 million in various talcum powder cases. Also, according to CBS News, there are nearly 1,000 additional cases pending.
August 2017, $417 Million:
The first California state jury to evaluate a potential tie between Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder products and ovarian cancer took place late August 2017. According to Law360, this sets “a high-water mark on” J&J with a massive $417 million verdict for Johnson & Johnson’s part in leading to a woman’s terminal cancer. Law360 notes that this award is much greater than the combined totals of the large awards from earlier trials in Missouri.
According to the Associated Press (AP), the plaintiff received $70 million in compensatory damages and $347 million in punitive damages from J&J and its subsidiary and co-defendant Johnson & Johnson Consumer. The award is greater than eight- and nine-digit figure verdicts against Johnson & Johnson in similar trials in St. Louis, Missouri.
Following two days of deliberations after a four-week trial in Los Angeles, California, the jury found for the plaintiff, found that J&J had neglected to warn consumers about the increased risk of ovarian cancer caused by its Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower products, and found that the woman’s terminal ovarian cancer was the result of her use of the J&J products, according to Law360.
The woman’s attorney told Law360 that, although the plaintiff is dying, said that she was happy that the verdict might drive Johnson & Johnson to change its conduct. She told her attorney, in part, that, “I’m doing this for the other women who were not warned and got ovarian cancer and for the women who will get ovarian cancer if they keep using the talcum powder.”
The jury was shown evidence that J&J was made aware that talc might cause ovarian cancer and that it was told this at several times during the decades that the woman in this case was using the product. “…the jury wanted to make an example of that, and they wanted them to start warning,” the plaintiff’s attorney told Law360. The woman, 63, developed ovarian cancer in 2007 after more than 40 years of regularly using Johnson’s Baby Powder.
The individual lawsuit is Eva Echeverria et al. v. Johnson & Johnson et al., case number BC628228, and the coordinated proceeding is Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder Cases, case number JCCP4872, in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Los Angeles. More than 300 talcum powder lawsuits remain pending in California courts and another 4,500 claims are awaiting trial nationwide.
May 2017, $110 Million:
A St. Louis jury awarded $110 million to a 62-year-old Wise, Virginia woman who alleged that her regular use of Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower products over a 40-year period caused her ovarian cancer, which spread to her liver. The woman also alleged that Johnson’s Baby Powder contained asbestos. Johnson & Johnson denied this allegation. Meanwhile, the jury sided with the plaintiff and, of the $110 million awarded, $105 million is in punitive damages.
The plaintiff’s attorney said, “Once again we’ve shown that these companies ignored the scientific evidence and continue to deny their responsibilities to the women of America. They chose to put profits over people, spending millions in efforts to manipulate scientific and regulatory scrutiny.”
October 2016, $70 Million:
A St. Louis jury awarded $70 million to a Modesto, California woman who developed ovarian cancer in 2012 after many years of using Johnson’s Baby Powder. Her attorney said that the jury “once again reaffirmed the need for Johnson & Johnson to warn the public of the ovarian cancer risk associated with its product.”
May 2016, $55 Million:
In May 2016, a Missouri jury found in favor of a plaintiff who developed ovarian cancer after she used Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower Powder in her genital area for decades. She had to undergo a variety of surgeries, including a hysterectomy. The jury awarded her $55 million: $50 million in punitive damages and $5 million in compensatory damages.
February 2016, $72 Million:
In this case, the plaintiff, who developed ovarian cancer after long using baby powder for feminine hygiene, filed a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson in 2014. The woman was one of a group of 60 women who filed negligence lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson. A pathologist determined that the woman’s ovaries became inflamed and then became cancerous due to the talc. Internal memos suggested Johnson & Johnson executives were aware of the risks associated with the talc. In fact, one of J&J’s medical consultants compared talc use to smoking. The woman died in late 2015. In February 2016, a Missouri jury awarded her family $72 million.
California Win May Change J&Js Strategy
According to legal experts, the massive award of $417 million awarded by a California jury to a California resident over Johnson & Johnson’s talc-based powders allegedly causing cancer has likely dashed the company’s hopes that the cases were only “gaining traction” in Missouri, Reuters reported.
Reuters explained that the $417 million award by California jury to a California resident suggests what is known as “forum-shopping.” Forum shopping occurs when involved parties seek to file cases in whatever jurisdictions seems to be the most favorable. But this may not be the key problem that J&J is facing with the approximately 4,800 outstanding J&J talc lawsuits. J&J continues to deny any tie between talc and cancer and continues to say it will appeal the verdicts.
Meanwhile, the $417 million verdict was greater than the total of all the prior talc awards, which totaled $307 million and were all awarded in the same state court in St. Louis, Missouri in cases that were filed by out-of-state residents. One-quarter of all of the talc lawsuits nationally were brought in St. Louis following the first large verdicts there, according to Reuters.
J&J indicated that the St. Louis court is very plaintiff-friendly and is working to have the cases brought by out-of-state plaintiffs dismissed. “This has very much been about forum shopping,” Howard Erichson, a professor at Fordham School of Law, said. “The fact that there has been a big verdict in California is definitely interesting,” he added, Reuters reported.
Corporations have continually fought against plaintiffs who file lawsuits in courts that are plaintiff favorable. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June 2016 held that state courts cannot hear claims against companies that are not based in the state when the alleged injury did not occur there. In fact, Reuters pointed out that J&J benefited from this ruling, which a St. Louis judge cited when declaring a mistrial in a talc case involving two out-of-state women. J&J argued that it felt that the Supreme Court decision also required the reversal of the four St. Louis verdicts.
Meanwhile, legal experts are saying that the massive verdict in the California case—in which venue was not an issue—might re-focus the issue back to the evidence, according to Reuters.
The very first talc award against J&J was handed down in St. Louis state court for $72 million in February 2016. J&J prevailed in just one of the four trials that followed in St. Louis state court. The other verdicts ranged from $55 million to $110 million. J&J argued that plaintiffs in the St. Louis court should not have been allowed to present expert testimony tying talc products with cancer, arguing that the science is not sound. J&J has appeals pending on those cases on these grounds, Reuters reported.
For its part, J&J has compared the Missouri court’s stance to a New Jersey state court ruling in September 2016 tossing the plaintiffs’ experts and leading to the dismissal of two talc cases. The plaintiffs’ appeal of that ruling is pending.
The Los Angeles judge permitted testimony of some of the same plaintiffs’ experts that were presented in St. Louis. A defense attorney not involved in the talc case said that the California jury appeared to react in the same way to the evidence. “Something clearly inflamed the jury again,” she added, according to Reuters. A product liability defense attorney told Reuters that the California verdict showed that, putting venue issues aside, the evidence against J&J was compelling. “I think it’s a tough case for the defense,” he said.
According to Law360, the J&J losses in Missouri and California point to the powder maker’s “uphill battle” in attempting to use science to convince jurors that it did not lie to consumers. J&J is appealing all of its losses and argues that it has evidence on its side. Meanwhile, most of the cases have led to jury awards to sick, dying, and deceased plaintiffs who used the J&J powder products genitally for decades. At least one expert said that juries tend to award higher punitive damages when presented evidence concerns emotionally provoking injuries such as injuries to women’s reproductive organs. The legal expert said that, “Injuries to, in this particular case, reproductive organs—it’s an uncomfortable subject to hear about and people react to it emotionally…. The emotional tension involved in injuries to the reproductive tract is something that Johnson & Johnson has got to figure out how to defuse in these cases going forward.”
Also, jurors are anxious to impose large damages against companies that have hidden scientific evidence or lied to consumers to keep dangerous products on the shelves. In the last case, the plaintiffs’ attorney showed jurors evidence that talcum powder products that are manufactured by national companies like Wal-Mart are now sold with a warning concerning the tie between genital talc use and ovarian cancer, wrote Reuters.
Questions about Talcum Powder Lawsuits
If you or someone you know wants to learn more about filing a talcum powder lawsuit, contact the personal injury attorneys at Parker Waichman today. Our firm offers free, no-obligation case evaluations.
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